It seems as if Astros fans are spoiled beyond repair nowadays, myself included. With two World Series titles, four American League Pennants, and a total of six American League Championship Series appearances in six seasons, any fan base would act the same.
In 2020, the Houston Astros didn’t win the AL West division, but not many fans truly complained due to the circumstances of the world around them post scandal and throughout Covid. In 2021, the team was ravaged by injuries and still made it to the World Series, so there wasn’t too much to complain about. The 2022 and 2023 seasons have been a hell hole online dealing with the complaints about the every day lineup that Dusty Baker posts.
So the question begs, what would Dusty Baker’s optimal lineup actually be? Let’s take a look.
The Major League Baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, so the lineup Astros fans will see in October will ultimately not be the same for a game against the Oakland Athletics in May. There’s 162 games in a season and Cal Ripken Jr.’s record is special because no one does that anymore. The goal is a World Series every year for the Astros, not to win the AL West, even though that’s nice.
When healthy, Dusty Baker will surely have Jose Altuve leading off and playing second base. It’s a no-brainer and something every Astros fan can universally agree on. In the two-hole, Dusty does have a number of options that would be fine, but only one would be optimal. Kyle Tucker.
As a manager, you’d usually want all of your best hitters hitting 1-2-3 to begin your lineup. That’s just common sense because those are the hitters that will get the most at-bats and give you the best chance to win. Kyle Tucker is arguably the Astros best or second best bat this season. He’s hitting .297, on the chase for 30 homers and 30 stolen bags, and currently has 3.5 WAR for all you nerds out there. Tuck you’re in the two-hold buddy.
Another batting position in the lineup that I hope all Astros fans would universally agree on is Yordan Alvarez batting third. Duh. Yordan had what some might say a lackluster postseason in 2022 except for every time in clutch situations where the Astros needed a home run, he’d hit one. He turned the World Series upside down, and has been clutch for Houston ever since he got to the big leagues in 2019. So, for the beginning of Dusty Baker’s optimal lineup you’d have Jose Altuve leading off, Kyle Tucker batting second, and Yordan Alvarez batting third, and everyone should be happy at this point.
Who will the cleanup batter be you might ask? There’s only one correct answer in my mind for this spot in the lineup and that’s Alex Bregman. He’s only experienced team success his entire career, and has performed on the biggest stage multiple times. Plus, he’s got experience in the cleanup spot in the last few seasons. Bregs is my pick to bat fourth because when he gets hot, it’s going to be a lot of fun for Astros fans.
The fifth spot in the order is sort of a toss up of two hitters. One has been struggling mightily for a majority of the season, but has the pedigree of a terrific hitter. The other is a young player that has discipline problems at the plate, but seems to put the bat on the ball in the right moments. I’m talking about José Abreu and Yainer Diaz.
Abreu is a former MVP and was a pivotal batter for the Chicago White Sox for years. He’s deserving of the fifth spot in the lineup, however, he’s been struggling this season and just went on the IL for his back. Not great. On the other hand, Diaz has been severely underplayed this season due to him still learning the Astros system behind the plate and I guess lack of sure-fire defense at first base. Regardless, he’s also incredibly deserving of the fifth spot in the lineup.
I’m going to throw a healthy Abreu in the five-hole over Diaz due to Diaz’s excitement when he sees runners on base. Diaz is sort of like me playing MLB the show, I’ll swing at anything too. So Dusty Baker’s optimal lineup is looking a little something like this:
So far, so good, right Astros fans? Now we get to the part where everyone starts getting upset with me for how I’m constructing Dusty Baker’s optimal lineup. Batting seventh for the Houston Astros come October is… Jon Singleton. Yes, that Jon Singleton. A power lefty bat in the seven-hole that is a tough out most times around the order. Count me in.
I bet a lot of Astros fans were expecting me to put Chas McCormick in that spot, but he’s going to land nicely here batting eighth. Yes, Chas is going to be hitting eighth in this scenario and that shows what depth this Astros team has. He was a monster in the 2022 postseason and has finally taken hold of the centerfield every day starting job (except for Justin Verlander’s personal centerfielder, Mauricio Dubón). What a blessing it is to have a batter that has 2.9 WAR and a 142 OPS+ batting eighth in your lineup.
Finally we’ve made it to the ninth batter of the lineup, Jeremy Peña. He won the ALCS and World Series MVP’s less than a year ago, but has had a bit of a sophomore slump this season. I’d expect him to heat up a bit in the coming weeks, and maybe we just get another magical run out of Peña and Dusty has to move him up the lineup like he did last season. Who’s to say? But when a MVP is your second leadoff hitter from the ninth spot in the lineup you can’t really complain at all.
So there, Astros fans, I’ve built Dusty Baker’s optimal lineup and everyone can stop griping about it online.
While this would be the optimal lineup, there are three pitchers in the Astros rotation that will ask for Martín Maldonado to catch for them. In that case, you put Diaz at DH, and move everyone up in the lineup and let Maldy be the nine-hole. Then, you have Singleton, Jake Meyers, and Dubón as your bench bats. See, I’ve thought of it all. What would Dusty Baker’s optimal lineup actually be in your eyes?